Water is a precious resource, especially in Africa, and maintaining the infrastructure that delivers it to homes and businesses is a complex task. Pumping stations are the heart of this system, transferring huge volumes of water between reservoirs and water towers as well as across the wider network.
Large parts of the local water infrastructure were installed around 50 years ago and since then the reliability of the pumps has been assured by their quality of the design and construction. Now, Sulzer is working with water utility companies to identify the pumps most in need of refurbishment to enable them to continue operating without unplanned downtime.
Many of the municipal companies in Africa have been in business for decades, and they will have many brands of legacy pumps where the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) has merged with another or ceased to exist. In these cases, although the pumping stations contain pumps manufactured by several brands, they can all be maintained by Sulzer.
The water supply network also consists of many reservoirs and water towers, all connected by large pumping stations that ensure water is delivered to the local population. However, supply and demand are finely balanced, so any downtime can cause significant problems.
In the first part of this project, a total of 22 pumps (11 pump sets), will be refurbished. Each pump set consists of a booster and a main pump operating in series. Although the longest serving of these assets is 45 years old, the average age of the pumps in this program is around 20 years.
The majority of the pumps will be repaired, with the wearing parts such as seals and bearings being replaced. However, the oldest of the machines uses an antiquated lubrication system that will be upgraded as part of the repair process. All the old coatings inside the pumps will be removed and replaced with more modern equivalents. For example, the old ceramic coatings used on the internal sleeves are being replaced with a tungsten coating.
The first pump has already been removed and its overhaul is underway. To avoid any disruption to the water delivery, each pump set will be refurbished, reinstalled and run for a month before the next one is removed. Throughout the process, the utility’s management team will be kept informed on progress, with Sulzer coordinating logistics and field services personnel to ensure the project is delivered smoothly.
Large parts of the water infrastructure in Africa are of a similar age, which means that significant volumes of equipment are reaching the end of their serviceable lives around the same time. This situation has the potential to develop into a serious issue unless a widescale program of planned maintenance can be completed.
In these situations, a proactive approach is the best course of action. Unplanned downtime can have a huge impact, especially if more than one asset is out of commission while repairs are being planned. Large pumps require specialist facilities and knowledge to achieve an efficient turnaround.
According to Sulzer, pump operators in Africa can benefit from its design and repair capabilities and access them via the facilities located within the region.